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As clear as glass, or as clear as mud?

22/02/2012

Today we have another near miss. Here in England, whole comedy routines have been hung on the (to us defiant monoglots) exotic names given to mundane products in IKEA’s gigantic range. All credit to them for it, by the way, because it’s far easier to ask for a mid-green Spramebu – or even Språmebü – than a CZ67J4MgB/a in Pantone #348. IKEA has a range of drinking glasses (red wine, white wine, schnapps and tumblers. I just checked!) called Svalka, which means “refreshing” in Swedish; how very appropriate.

When IKEA decided to open a store in Moscow someone soon realised that, in Russian, Svalka (свалка) means “landfill” or “dump”, as in “У тебя не двор, а свалка” [Your yard looks like a dump]. This was not the image that IKEA, or anybody, would be seeking. For the Russian market, therefore, the final “a” was dropped, leaving a word that sounds exotically foreign without meaning anything at all.

                    SVALKA                      свалка                         SVALK

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